Last weekend marked my third annual August trip to Green Lake for the Ripon Medical Center Triathlon. The race itself is in its 13th year, and is one of my favorites: small field but good competition, calm waters on a scenic lake, tough hills on the run and ride. The parents of our friends who live right across the street live in Green Lake, and have generously hosted us each of these visits, making it a whole weekend of playing on the lake. Thanks, Barry and Ann!
So the race... another sunny day perfect for racing! I selected the olympic distance, because although I've had fun and been successful on the sprint course three times this summer, I figured I'd better remind myself what the olympic distance is like before going to Chicago at the end of the month with Team in Training.
Several unusual things happened this time around.
The start of the race was something very special for me. After talking about the topic with my teammates at the Janesville tri, I emailed the race director at Green Lake, volunteering myself to sing the National Anthem to kick off this rac
e. I thought it would be fun, and a little something that I could offer; turns out that it was something very special indeed. I arrived at the site very early, which allowed me to move at an easy pace, and got me a great spot on the rack (at this race, the director leaves the first row completely open - where pro's might go at a big race - for early-birds who want to seize the opportunity!) As I prepared, the sun rose over Green Lake, softened by the dawn's mist and illuminating the water and dewey grass. Athletes arrived and prepared, I greeted several friends who were participating. The intensity grew as the start time approached, and the race directo
r did what he could to make announcements through his megaphone over the din. When the time came, he introduced me and I began to sing ... I felt confident but still a bit warbly for my nerves, and a little funny for standing there singing - in my wetsuit! But the Banner has a special effect - once people hear that it's being sung, quiet spreads quickly until everything falls silent. It's the only moment all morning with stillness and silence, before the frenzy of the race begins. All the athletes of all shapes and sizes and abilities and goals have one minute and fifteen seconds to remember that they all play on the same field, to breathe, to focus. I love to m
entor, to lead people - I encourage them to find calm and joy in racing; I realized that in singing this song, I was offering that not just to my "team", but to everyone that morning. I observed this from somewhere beyond myself, not as a performer, but someone among this unified field, taking in this moment of the morning.
Then as soon as it was over, I ran to the starting line, because my wave was starting in two minutes! Crossed the timing mat, put on my swim cap and ear plugs and goggles... a quick mental checklist - checked my chip (had a quick pee in my wetsuit...)
Jumped in, and immediately fogged up. Being a 1500-meter swim, I just pulled over and cleaned my goggled out, but took a couple minutes to regain my rhythm. Even a short stop was enough to take my mind off swimming, opening the flood gates to other thoughts that are never constructive to moving through the course with one's head underwater. I've found that one good cure for swim-nerves is ... swimming! Even though I advocate for swiming easy, if my nerves act up, I try to swim a bit harder and focus on the swimming itself, which seems to reset me back into my groove - then I slow back down. It seems to work.
Nearing the end of the swim I got into some t
rouble: a shallow rock, probably covered with super-sharp zebra mussels, on which I sliced my left arm with one pull... then my right hand with the next. I was at quite a loss - I wasn't expecting this kind of assault! Each movement of my hand through the water stung like crazy. I guess from there I just made myself deal with it and finish the swim. In T1, would I look for the medical tent? Was there something in my bag that I could wrap myself up with? But I'm raci
ng, it can't be that bad, I want to PR, I'll feel better on the bike, I need to keep moving... these kinds of thoughts. Quick assessments. So I just did my usual T1 and started to ride, and did in fact just drip blood off my bike for a few miles. I was mostly concerned that I would ruin my uniform!
The ride was great - nice combination of rollers, flats, and a couple tough climbs. "Spin to win" is still #1 in my book - sitting up, gearing down, and breathing easy up the big climbs seems to keep me passing other athletes every time, in this case including the second place lady. I got good motivation from a fellow age-grouper who outrode me on the flats, but not on the hills - all through the 24-mile course. By the time I go
t back into T2, the bleeding had mostly stopped and I was ready for the 10k run.
The run was tough; this is where the olympic distance really gets hard, I think. I took it out a bit easy, especially with a big climb over the first mile. Kristin Korevek from Orange Shoe gym - the leading lady - was right behind me so I wanted to stay strong to help motivate her over the first hill. By mile 2 I had started to fade already, which disappointed me - although it was nice for Kristin to come around so we could sa
y hello for a moment... then I could try to keep up with her for a moment... then I could look at the pretty lake all alone! The entire mile 3 was uphill on loose gravel, which was mentally challenging for me. The entire mile 4, though, was downhill on the same and I started to feel better and pick up speed.
An outstanding fan-interaction snapped me out of my 10k daze as I began the climb in the last mile. Some folks were cheering, and some yelled nice things about Team in Training. One guy yelled "hey, nice visor - where'd you get that
?" I was wearing my Ironman visor. Maybe I was looking beat. I immediately believed again, and shouted "I earned it"; immediately felt myself stand back up straight and attack the hill in front of me like I love to do.
It was good. Pulled pork sandwiches afterward, some stretching, some medical attention, and an afternoon of sunshine and waterskiing. Thanks for sharing this day with me!